LARGO – Responding to a recent outcry from residents of Kent Place, the city of Largo will conduct an eight-month study to quantify the sanitary sewer overflows and odors that have been reported in the residential neighborhood.
The study will take about eight months because city officials want to capture conditions in both the dry and rainy season, Assistant City Manager Michael Staffopoulos explained to commissioners during a work session Feb. 11. The study will cost between $75,000 and $150,000 and target three problems residents have identified: overflows in the levels of the sanitary sewer, recurring odors and the frequency with which city officials clean out the line in the neighborhood.
“Evidently, between what we’re hearing from the community versus what we have for records, we do have an information gap,” Staffopoulos said. “We need to do a study to try to determine more information as to what’s going on out there.”
First, Staffopoulos proposed installing water level sensors and flow monitors on selected manholes to track the change in wastewater flows and elevations. According to city’s current sewer model, overflows should not be occurring in a “10-year, 24-hour storm event,” which means it would have to rain 8 inches or more within 24 hours, according to city documents. If overflows are occurring, the city needs to determine where, how and why, and that can only be properly assessed with a study, Staffopoulos said.
Second, the city proposed installing odor loggers to measure the level of hydrogen sulfide gas being produced within the sewer line to determine if and where potential odors are occurring. The city would hire a consultant to install and continually monitor both types of sensors for accuracy during the study.
Finally, Staffopoulos said the city would start measuring the amount of materials workers remove from the sewer line, which they do as a preventative measure every seven to 10 days. The city has kept up the practice for about a decade without analyzing the need for its frequency, he said. Kent Place residents have complained that the cleanings themselves are the source of much of the smells they endure and have questioned the need for them.
Potentially, the city workers could back off the cleaning frequency, Staffopoulos said.
“We won’t know until we have some quantitative data,” he added.
Commissioners will have to approve the study in a public hearing once staff determines its final scope and cost, though they agreed to the concept as presented. But not before Commissioner Woody Brown questioned whether or not the study was entirely necessary.
“We’re going to spend $150,000 for a consultant to tell us what we know. Why not fix it, rather than spending the money and the time?” he asked. “The problem is it’s a flat system, and it’s not real effective.”
City engineer Leland Dicus said that the study would determine if the city’s current model for the area was accurate.
“We need to do that flow metering and recalibrate the model there to be able to appropriately evaluate alternatives,” he said. “Without that model, we won’t have the confidence to tell you, ‘Yes, here’s the size of pipe to put in, here’s how much it’s going to cost and it’s going to reduce overflows.’”
Mayor Pat Gerard voiced support for the city’s proposal, despite the cost and time investment. The proposed study is similar to one that analyzed problems with the system in the Paradise Island community.
“We didn’t want to spend the money on Paradise Island either, but what we got back was a solution,” Gerard said.
The money to pay for the study will come from city’s sewer fund.
Also discussed during the work session was the city’s strategic plan for its fire rescue department, part of its periodic re-accreditation process. While complimenting Fire Chief Shelby Willis for the comprehensive scope of the document, commissioners bemoaned the potential loss of Emergency Medical Services funding from the county, as currently proposed in a new funding model.
Commissioner Jaime Robinson asked that the city invite Bruce Moeller, director of the county’s Public Safety Services, to give a presentation at an upcoming meeting, allowing “at least everybody here to air all our feelings.”